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About Me

My journey toward this practice began in eighth grade English class, when we were assigned to read Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon. The novel served as my introduction to the field of mental health, and I was fascinated! Shortly thereafter, my school held a career day, and I got to see a psychologist talk about his work. I wanted to work in this field!

During college, however, my life took a different turn when I realized that an academic environment was not a comfortable fit for me. After earning my bachelor's degree in psychology, I decided not to pursue the advanced degree that would allow me to go into private practice as a licensed psychologist or social worker. Instead, I shifted gears and went to work for a political nonprofit organization. I found the work to be very rewarding, but after a couple of years, the time and energy commitments took their toll. I turned to working in a progressive small business environment, which I found I also enjoyed.

Meanwhile, I stayed in touch with my passion via self-guided learning. In the 1990s, I discovered the enneagram of personality, which engrossed me. In early 2002, as the nation reeled from the 9/11 attacks, I went to an introductory lecture on Nonviolent Communication (NVC, also called Compassionate Communication) by its founder, Marshall Rosenberg. This new information changed my life profoundly, and I strive to live my life in accordance with NVC principles as much as possible.

In 2004, I attended a personal-growth retreat called Naka-Ima, which also gave me valuable new skills for changing my thinking and communication styles. (Naka-Ima retreats are no longer offered, but the practice spawned two spin-offs, Solsara and Heart of Now, both of which I highly recommend.)

By late 2006, I was feeling a strong desire to return to my early yearnings to work with people one-on-one in a therapeutic setting, using heartfelt presence and some of these newly acquired skills and insights about communication and human nature to nurture and inspire people. How could I do it on my own terms, without the expensive and life-consuming process of a graduate program?

Finally, it hit me: I could create my own practice of empathetic listening! In my personal life, when I had seen therapists at various times, I found that at least 90% of the benefit I received from them was simply experiencing their genuine supportive presence and encouragement. I knew I could provide this, without the extra academic filter. In fact, I believe this is sometimes a plus for my clients, because I have less of an analytical/diagnostic orientation than those who are trained and licensed in more conventional ways. I also enjoy – and I know many of my clients appreciate – the fact that I can offer in-person sessions here in my Portland office but I can also do phone or Skype sessions, which means I can work with clients anywhere in the world.

And I love working with clients! It is a deep honor to witness people's lives, and I never fail to learn more about the human condition by listening to people talk about what is real for them in the moment. I am so happy to be able to offer my clients the gift of listening and presence – without judgment or advice – knowing that it helps them get to know themselves better, feel lighter, and be more confident in creating the lives they want.

Thank you for reading my story. If it inspires you, I would love to hear from you!

"I seek out Maren's supportive listening when I get overwhelmed because I've taken on too much, and when I want an intelligent, caring opinion on a tough issue. Sometimes I call her my creative springboarder, because as a fellow artist, she can riff with me on ideas and emotions, as well as career decisions and practical life matters. I recommend Maren and Happy To Listen to anyone who wants to grow or move forward in their life. After I see Maren I always feel encouraged and heartened." – AW